Nov. 17, 2020 By Allie Griffin
The operators of a Bayside car dealership who targeted and conned Chinese-speakers into shelling out thousands in bogus costs have been ordered to repay their victims, according to authorities.
Star Toyota of Bayside, located at 205-11 Northern Blvd., must pay more than $180,000 to the Chinese-speaking customers it duped into paying thousands in unnecessary costs, Attorney General Letitia James announced today.
The car dealership used fraudulent, deceptive and unlawful practices to sell and finance used vehicles to Chinese-speakers who lacked English language skills from Jan. 1, 2014 through March 1, 2018, James said.
“Stealing from our immigrant communities by taking advantage of language barriers is not only illegal, but downright shameful,” she said. “New York values its immigrant communities, and we will not stand idly by while they are targeted.”
Star Toyota placed ads in Chinese-language publications and utilized Chinese-speaking sales representatives to create trust with its Chinese customers. After building their trust, the dealership had unsuspecting customers sign contracts to purchase their vehicles at higher costs than what had been agreed to while negotiating in Chinese, James said.
The sales team also increased customers’ costs by adding unwanted aftermarket products to contracts without customers’ knowledge or consent in practice known as “jamming.”
The aftermarket products included supplemental warranties, service contracts and theft insurance policies — all slipped into customers’ contracts without their knowledge, James said.
Additionally, Star Toyota often failed to provide customers with copies of their contracts, leaving them dumbfounded as to where the jacked-up prices were coming from.
Sales reps, according to James, would also prey on their Chinese consumers’ lack of familiarity with domestic auto sales practices by demanding tips or taking extra cash from customers for expenses they had already paid for.
The company must pay $186,855 in restitution to 21 known customers as well as $100,000 in civil penalties to the state of New York.
James said she was happy to return the money to cheated customers and encouraged any others who may have been targeted by Star Toyota to come forward.
“I look forward to returning hard-earned money back into the pockets of consumers, and I am proud to be able to fight for the rights of all New Yorkers,” James said.
The fraudulent scheme first came to light when Star Toyota customers reached out to Rep. Grace Meng’s office.
Meng said she was pleased the customers will receive restitution. She also said auto dealership’s predatory practices are unfortunately commonplace in immigrant communities where language barriers exist.
“Taking advantage of customers, particularly those with limited English proficiency, is unconscionable and shameful…,” she said in a statement. “These cases should serve as a warning to others who seek to swindle vulnerable individuals out of their hard-earned money. Ripping off consumers will not be tolerated and those who do will face the consequences of their actions.”
Any Chinese-speaking consumers who believe they were deceived by Star Toyota of Bayside from January 1, 2014 to March 1, 2018, can file a complaint online at https://ag.ny.gov/star-toyota-of-bayside-settlement or via telephone at 1-800-771-7755. Additional claimants have 90 days to come forward.